Mikel Arteta held his first training session as head coach on Thursday, and six of the academy players joined in with the senior group.
On Sunday, Matt Smith, Zech Medley, Tyreece John-Jules, James Olayinka, Tolaji Bola and Robbie Burton all joined senior training along with any of the first-team players not involved in the Everton match.
Could this be Tolaji Bola’s chance?
The most interesting case is Bola’s. This should be the best opportunity yet for the youth left-back to make his senior debut.
Both of Arsenal’s senior left-backs are out with injuries, a new head coach gives Bola a clean slate to impress. Bukayo Saka can’t hold the position entirely on his own throughout the festive period.
Bola is 20, and he made the first-team squad for the first time back in September. The situation with Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney returning from injury in that game against Forest cut his chances of featuring off the bench though.
The full-back is having a solid season with the u23s. All the same, he didn’t seem to be in favour under Unai Emery or even Freddie Ljungberg.
He does still have room for improvement, and an injury hurt his chances of a debut earlier in the season, but perhaps the only way to really test his capabilities in a senior environment is to give him a shot now.
With Saka playing well against Everton, Arteta could save him for the Chelsea game. That would give Bola a window of opportunity, albeit a slim one, against Bournemouth.
Tyreece John-Jules edging closer
John-Jules travelled with the squad to the Everton game as the 19th man. He’s getting closer and closer to a competitive debut, and he’ll draw hope from the way Bukayo Saka travelled as the 19th man on many occasions last season before his breakthrough.
When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are on form, it’s hard to get a look in. Perhaps the recent dip in performances and the upcoming cup match against Leeds could earn him an opportunity though.
John-Jules has eight goals and three assists for the u23s this season, despite a hamstring injury in September and often dropping into midfield to accommodate Folarin Balogun.